May 15—Laying the groundwork. Building the foundation.
Whatever the operative phrasing might be regarding the Chattanooga Red Wolves' 1-0 road win over North Texas Soccer Club last weekend, it should describe not only the success they enjoyed in their 2021 USL League One opener but what the victory might mean for their third season.
It was only the second home loss in the history of the Dallas-area team, which also debuted in 2019, and gave the Chattanooga club a much-needed three points in the league standings to start the season. The Red Wolves won by being more aggressive and taking advantage of the best opportunity they had for a goal when Jimmie Villalobos knocked a shot in off a Juan Galindrez feed in the first half.
There really weren't many more chances. It didn't matter. The Red Wolves were solid defensively, and goalkeeper Sebastian Mora-Mora did what he had to do, including a big save on a Thibaut Jacquel header in stoppage time.
It was a step in the right direction for the newly constructed roster, which went a massive overhaul ahead of Jimmy Obleda's second season as head coach.
"As we start to talk about the family element of what the Red Wolves are, it's something I've really never experienced before in my career," general manager Sean McDaniel said this week. "To watch how we played, how we battled, how we really treated our first game of the season as the championship game — it set the tone as to what the entire organization is going to be like, and the celebration wasn't one of you know, so much overkill, as it was the celebration of, we have begun the way we want it to begin, and this is the tightest group of players.
"It is a complete testimony to Coach Obleda; they really live and die for each other on the field, and it was shown in Dallas on Saturday."
Villalobos and midfielder Jose Carrera Garcia were named to the USL League One's team of the week, with Villalobos' score selected the best goal.
It's obviously just the first step. The season is going to be a long, grueling process, one that not even Obleda has been through as he was hired prior to a 2020 season that ended up being delayed and then played with a reduced schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This season there's a 28-game slate, with the Red Wolves' second coming at 8 p.m. Sunday against the New England Revolution II at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. After that is the home opener on Saturday, May 22, with a scheduled kickoff of 7 p.m. at CHI Memorial Stadium under the lights that have just been put up at the East Ridge venue.
But if last week was any indication, it's going to be a fun process as well.
"We haven't won anything; we just won a game," Obleda said earlier this week. "It's still a long road ahead, but for this group and everything we're working for, it's a great little step into many steps that we're going to take this season to make a run for the championship."
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3.